With Spring just around the corner, (Wheatears and singing Willow Warblers already seen in Cornwall!!) we thought it would be nice to look back on some of the highlights of our West Cornwall Winter Day Tours at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022. We had 4 full day tours and a private tour for our regular Cornwall Birding Ladies Group and despite one or two days of ‘challenging’ weather, we still amassed a grand total of over 100 species over the five tours.

Where did we go?

Our winter tours tend to cover the same itinerary, visiting a number of habitats to extend our chances of seeing the most types of bird during the day. Regular sites were St Gothian Sands NR and Godrevy Head, Hayle Estuary complex, Mounts Bay, including Marazion Marsh, Marazion Beach, Penzance, Wherrytown and Newlyn seafronts and harbours and Bartinney Downs. The latter site was our go to for Short-eared Owls, but this was heavily dependent on the wind and rains! Our last trip took us on a detour to Tehidy Woods, where we added Woodland species to the winter tour lists, not something we normally include. On our day tours in November and December we also went ‘off piste, and ventured to St Erth and Trewey Common near Zennor. On these two occasions we targeted individual species, Cattle Egret and Whooper Swan. The second occasion the swans had moved on but we were rewarded with a lone Barnacle Goose!

Targets and a bit of bad weather

Our November tour set the target for the rest of the season with 84 species seen. We came close on the second attempt with 80 species but a turn in the weather in the new year caused us to suffer rain and wind and a notable drop in species, by at least 7 or 8 on each occasion. Despite this minor setback we still persevered and had some great views of quality birds like Red-throated Diver, Glaucous Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Snow Bunting, Great White Egret and Little Gull.

On the days when the weather was kind, we had up to 6 individual Short-eared Owls at Bartinney, showing really well and for many were definitely the highlight of the tours. But we weren’t always lucky there. Wind and rain spoiled two visits and we just didn’t have the time to stay in the hope of seeing them. Some others we spoke to had waited 4 hours before seeing a single Owl! Another disappointment this season was the lack of Han Harriers at our usual evening roost site. After a couple of blank evenings we made the decision to use our time elsewhere.

The Long Stayers

As with most winters, there were a few long-staying scarce and rare birds in the county and we caught up with most. The Great White Egret was at Hayle and showed well on Ryan’s Field, Cattle Egrets could be difficult, but we saw nine together at St Erth and a group of 5 Whooper Swans at Trewey Common stayed around long enough for one of the tours. The Snow Bunting was often elusive at St Gothian Sands NR, mainly due to disturbance and the Ring-billed Gull was on the Hayle Estuary all winter (and still is at time of writing!) The final two tour groups had great views of the Glaucous Gull and Red-throated Diver in Newlyn Harbour.

Big Thanks!

We can’t wait to start arranging some dates for next winter and hope the tours are as successful as this season. May we offer a huge thank you to all who booked and came on the winter tours (and all of our 2021 Tours!), it was great to meet you all and it was our genuinely pleasure guiding you. We know many of you have already booked on future tours, so we will see you again soon. If not, then please do!

What Did We See? Full list of birds below:

Canada Goose, Greylag, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck, Eider, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Kittiwake, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Caspian Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Gannet, Great Skua, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron,Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel, Merlin, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl, Kingfisher, Jay, Magpie, Chough, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Fircrest, Wren, Starling, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird, Robin, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Swallow, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit. Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Siskin, Linnet, Siskin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Snow Bunting, Reed Bunting.